HL Deb 07 July 1986 vol 478 cc7-9

2.56 p.m.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows: To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress has been made in the proposed improvement to the C1 Unit at Holloway Prison.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Glenarthur)

My Lords, work has now been completed on a series of modifications to 10 cells on C1 Unit, including replacement of sanitary fittings and plumbing, recessing of light fittings and radiators, replacement of flooring, improvements to observation within the cells and redecoration. Work on the installation of a protected room is due to be completed in two weeks' time. Improvements have also been made to facilities and accommodation for staff on the unit. The remaining phase of the improvements to the unit, on which work has recently begun, is the provision of an association area and day room to improve facilities for out-of-cell activities. This work should be completed in January 1987.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, I should like to thank the Minister for that encouraging Answer. May I press him a little further on two other aspects of the proposed improvements for the Cl Unit? First, can he give us news of any progress on the planning of the replacement unit for C1? Secondly, in view of the recent manpower report on Holloway, when can we expect a response to the recommendations made on the staffing levels of the C1 Unit and on the organisation of the discipline and medical staff necessary to render flexibility between those two groups of staff in the C1 Unit?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I share the noble Baroness's concern that progress must be made with the new unit. At this stage, I cannot give an estimate as to how long it will be, other than to say that planning is going on. We have had close co-operation with the DHSS on this matter. Experts from the Prison Department and the DHSS have met and seen the facilities at Broadmoor and Park Lane. The staffing levels of the present unit and the balance between nursing and discipline staff have been examined by the manpower team to which the noble Baroness referred. The aim will be to provide as full a regime as possible for the unit, with appropriate and adequate psychiatric treatment and nursing therapy and care. Recently a seminar was held to try to bring together the interests of the nursing and the discipline staff. It was a considerable success.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, how many women have passed through that unit since the passing of the Mental Health Act 1983 who would have been committed to a secure hospital but for the provisions in that measure regarding the susceptibility to treatment? Does the Minister consider that one of the reasons for the problems that have arisen is the pressure on accommodation and staff resources resulting from the increase in numbers since 1983? Is it not now clear that the regime in the C1 Unit is inappropriate for patients suffering from severe mental disorders, whether or not they are susceptible to treatment? Will the Minister therefore not merely content himself with improvement to the fabric, but proceed as quickly as possible with the alternative accommodation which the noble Baroness mentioned?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I cannot tell the noble Lord how many have passed through the unit since the passing of that legislation. What I can say is that a senior medical officer with psychiatric experience who has responsibility for the C1 Unit has been in place for some time. He has certainly a key role to play in the creation of the right management framework and an appropriate regime.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, does the noble Lord the Minister recollect, as I believe the House will, the pressure that has been applied from time to time by my noble friend Lady Ewart-Biggs in regard to the scandalous conditions that have existed at Holloway and in the C1 Unit? Will he also accept the gratitude of this side of the House for the way that he has listened to those questions and has done his best, I am sure, to produce the situation that he has reported to the House today?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord. Yes, I am aware of the pressure. I am aware of how necessary it was to put those things right. I should also like to say, however, that it is the Government's firm belief that those mentally disordered offenders whose disorder is of a nature or degree that makes it appropriate for them to be detained in hospital under the terms of the Mental Health Act 1983 should not be in prison.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, while I warmly agree with the statement just made by the Minister, may I press him on the question of the timescale regarding this new unit? Since the decision was announced to the House several months ago, is it not appropriate that some timescale should be established? I should also like to ask about consultation in respect of the new unit. The noble Lord will be aware that MIND, of which I am chairman, has been extremely involved in this operation for a long time. It has not been consulted at all about the new unit. Should there not be widespread consultation?

Lord Glenarthur

Yes, my Lords; I agree that there should be widespread consultation. As it stands, consultation has taken place between the DHSS and the Prison Department. I referred earlier to visits that have been made to Park Lane and Broadmoor. In addition, visits have been made to a regional secure unit. It is important that all of us learn about the latest developments in the treatment of the mentally ill and look at different types of accommodation available. If I were to put a timescale to this matter, I am sure that it would change. It is important to get this absolutely right. As soon as I have a timescale, I shall let the noble Lord know.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, it is crucial that within the C1 Unit two groups of disciplined staff should work well together and at the end of the day it will be for the Prison Department to make a decision on the recommendations of the manpower report. In view of that will the Minister give an assurance that he will press for the Prison Department to come to an early decision as to the level and organisation of staffing in the C1 Unit?

Lord Glenarthur

Yes, my Lords, it is, of course, important that the best use is made of all the facilities at Holloway—not just C1. I assure the noble Baroness that this is in the forefront of my mind.

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